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Video Slashdot's Rob Rozeboom Interviews D&D Designer Mike Mearls (video) 139

Mike Mearls is the Senior Manager for the Dungeons and Dragons Design Team. He's been with D&D publishers Wizards of the Coast (a subsidiary of Hasbro) since 2005, Before that he was a free-lance game writer and designer. In this conversation with Slashdot editor Rob "samzenpus" Rozeboom, he talks about changes in the latest version of D&D and how the company interacts with players. (We'll have some more chat with Mike next week, different wizard time, same wizard channel, so stay tuned.)

Slashdot welcomes reader video submissions. Email robin AT roblimo dot COM for info.

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Slashdot's Rob Rozeboom Interviews D&D Designer Mike Mearls (video)

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  • No thanks (Score:1, Informative)

    by wbr1 ( 2538558 )
    if (DnD > 3.5) {DnD=='sucks'}
    • That's bad C-syntax
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Codemonkey response: you need a single =, no quotes, and to define what enumerated type has a numeric definition of sucks. Or alternatively, single =, double quotes, and fix your variable placement. As it is currently, you are doing a numeric check, followed by checking to see whether that number is also equal to the single character 'sucks' (which is not a single character) and then completely ignoring the result of that check.

      Gamer response: Not true. D&D 3.8E is quite fun. (Where 3.8E is the inte

    • Re:No thanks (Score:4, Informative)

      by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:56AM (#40686935) Homepage Journal

      Honestly, it's not the versions that I have a problem with, it's that they've converted to an optional content/material publication system, to a required core update system that delivers no new content, just new rules. Wizards seem to have forgotten the value of charm and mystery along the way.

      I remember when the problem really began with random miniatures instead of just buying what you need. The whole intent was to FORCE you to buy more to get what you need to play. I jumped ship, and I think lots of other people did too.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm not so sure. I have to agree with your assessment; 3.5 to me was the pinnacle of DnD and 4 just turned me off big time.

        However, I still didn't jump ship, I've just stayed with 3.5. Technically I play other's products now, such as Arcanna Evolved by Monte Cook and Pathfinder, which are enhancements of the 3.0 and 3.5 editions and to me represent good quality upgrades. So maybe that's jumping ship to go to other D20 products, but I'll admit I'm not jumping ship to any of the other game systems like Whi

      • by zlives ( 2009072 )

        which led to using whatever fig as whatever monster... which returned us to using M&M's as monsters... only use figs for PC from chain mail and such...

    • Luckily for you, you probably have an imagination and can use the huge number of resources already available for 3.5 and play D&D forever. I happen to play and enjoy 4th edition, but other than the core rule books and a couple updates, I haven't had to get anything new in years, and likely never will.

    • by azalin ( 67640 )
      I still own the first D&D and AD&D first and second edition rules and source books. It was fun playing at the time, but when the third edition came out I decided not participate any longer and went for different systems to spend money on (but continued playing 2nd edition). But it has been several years now since my last rpg session (that was vampire the masquerade).
    • if (DnD > 2.5) {DnD=='sucks'}
      There, fixed that for you.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        No, D&D prior to 3.0 was a clusterfuck of shitty rules. We played it because it was what we had always played. 3.0 started over just enough to standardize the system while keeping the essential feel of the game. 3.5 and now Pathfinder have simply carried on the evolution. 4.0 was just a totally different game that had little relation to what came before.

        Take off the rose colored glasses. D&D up through 2.5 was not a good system.

    • if (DnD > 3.5) {DnD=='sucks'}

      I don't know. Every edition has its strengths and weaknesses, but 3.5e was arguably less good than 3e, which in turn fixed a bunch of AD&D 2e's problems but created a whole string of new really bad ones (mostly by removing all caster restrictions while crippling the fighter, ramping up the complexity with feats, and heavy emphasis on the game board), while 2e was just a Bowdlerised version of AD&D 1e, which was in turn Original D&D with all the ambiguity removed for consistent tournament play.


  • by coldsalmon ( 946941 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:32AM (#40686551)

    First of all, thank you for doing this interview and releasing it for free for my enjoyment. However, I don't have audio on the computer I'm using right now, so I can't hear it. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I hate watching videos of things that can be communicated faster and more efficiently via text (like interviews). A transcription would be appreciated.

    • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:42AM (#40686711)

      Transcripts are also more fun for cut-n-paste his answers and provide commentary. I look forward to being able to read the transcript, or at least a summary.

      Pathfinder is widely seen as 3.75 or "what 4 should have been" or however you wanna phrase it. I happen to like Pathfinder and despite my noted ability to complain about almost anything, I find nothing to complain about WRT Pathfinder. Any comments about that in the video? It would be pretty cool if the newly released 5.0 or whatever it'll be called would just be "eh F-it we'll just license Paizo's core rulebook, slap on some new cover art, and call it a day". Kind of like if MS Windows 2013 turned out to be a Ubuntu boot disk.

      • Pathfinder is for the most part a sideways step for 3.5. It fixed a couple things and did away with a whole lot of broken splat ... but it didn't even fix all the major known flaws (gate is the same as it ever was for instance) and it's busy breaking casters with it's own broken splat already though, with the summoner and the bouncing/persistent metamagic rods for instance. Also it failed to learn the lessons from some of the later 3.5 splat such as Tome of Battle and Magic Item Compendium, both flawed book

        • it didn't even fix all the major known flaws (gate is the same as it ever was for instance)

          I would say that it hies to the universal D&D flaws, thus retaining the core D&D feel. If you change enough of those, you wind up with an actual different game, not a progression within the same family. Of course, that's not a bad choice, but it would have resulted in a radically different end result that would have to seek a new audience. At least part of Pathfinder's appeal is that it's "a better D&D than D&D".

          • Making Gate only work on outsiders which are extra-planar on the material plane is not going to change the core D&D feel ... the classical use is to gate in high level Demons and Devils, which it would still be able to do. Allowing them to resist the control won't change the feel either.

            There is no excuse not to fix gate ...

      • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

        Just getting in to Pathfinder, after being away from D&D since early 80's. Daughter is now interested in PnP role playing so off we go. I picked up the Core Rulebook a couple months ago, to get a handle on things and um, uh, this is pretty complicated. I say this as someone who has created and run Hero and GURPS campaigns, back in the 90's. Finally broke down and got the kid the beginners box (/rationalization) and the simplified instructions and workflow process descriptions are much clearer. Now the

        • Pathfinder DM'ing is basically like 3e DM'ing ... a gigantic headache unless you just fudge everything and creating NPCs is a ton of work for something which might never impact the game whatsoever.

          I'd never do it without a computer ... Maptool is really useful even if you only use it to track initiative, status effects,creature abilities/cooldowns, HP etc.

          • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

            I do hold a special place in my heart for computer game tools. Wrote my first dice roller on a TRS-80 and my first character created/db on my Ti 99/4a (still runs but need to munge up video adapters for tv). I started with Pathfinder by putting together a character db that would do the heavy lifting on modifiers and such. Man, rules have expanded! Still is fun and Wife can't complain I'm hanging out at the pub.

    • mod parent up
    • by Rhaban ( 987410 )

      Same here.
      That's why I hate podcasts that don't have a transcript.

    • Agreed. I'm not going to sit here and watch a video of two guys talking. Sorry, it's just not going to happen. Give me a transcript, and I'll read it top to bottom.
    • I read faster than I can watch a video interview, and the same goes for most of the people I know.
      • Especially if you don't actually want to read everything. It's easier to skip over questions that don't interest you in text.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:48AM (#40686791)

    With the advent of 4th Edition, almost 10 years worth of direct effort from Wizards of the Coast (and almost 4 times as much effort from supplemental systems) was jettisoned in favor of an easier system that would allow for more quickly moving games. I was a very devoted fan of 4th edition (No reason to carry around a wheeled suitcase of rule books/supplements if you only need 1~2 that can go in a backpack. With the re-introduction/repackaging of nearly the same rules over and over again (Core books, Extra Handbooks, Monster Manuals, Essentials, Vaults, Compendiums) there were only 2 ways of keeping up with all the material. Become a professional D&D player with an entire bookcase dedicated to the rulebooks, or subscribe to the Insider where you could download the new rulesets.

    My Question is this: After the merchandise bloat that occurred in 4th edition what plans does Wizards of the Coast have to combat the significant buy in to play at a decent level?

    • 4e ... quickly moving games ...

      • It depends on the players, really. If everyone knows their characters and discusses strategy with each other, fights go by very quickly and everyone feels extremely heroic. The major hangups tend to be when players haven't been paying attention and re-read their powers every round. Fighters can no longer say "I attack" for the entirety of their turn.
  • by Infestedkudzu ( 2557914 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @11:54AM (#40686879)
    If I wanted everything equal, fair, balanced, I'd play a video game or watch fox news.
    • As a DM, these were the things that seemed most unbalanced to me in v2:
      1) Rangers and their damn ambidexterity
      2) Fireballs from hidden positions ("Can I shuffle-cast so that my last movement is beyond the wall?")
      3) Strength damage bonuses on missle weapons ("Screw archery or swordplay, imagonna load up on 50 lightweight daggers.")
      4) Character attribute selection + no penalties for low charisma, intelligence, or wisdom for non-spellcasters

      Other than that, it powered about four years of fun for me. How 'bout

      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        Character attribute selection + no penalties for low charisma, intelligence, or wisdom for non-spellcasters

        Anyone who tried playing a character with charisma below 6 in my games got ran out of town by the locals for looking like some kind of monster. Dealing with low-int and low-wis fighter in RP is a lot harder (and yeah, the save penalties are pretty much the only in-game rules that apply, and most of the people I was playing with thought that playing a hallucinating character was a trip ;). I basically

        • Anyone who tried playing a character with charisma below 6 in my games got ran out of town by the locals for looking like some kind of monster.

          Hmm, OK, probability of rolling CHA less than 6 is... 4.6% Yeah, 1 out of 20 people look like "some kind of monster". Glad I never played in your games.

      • by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @01:50PM (#40688261) Homepage
        I disagree with no strength bonuses on missile attacks. How fast can pitchers in MLB throw? I guess it depends on the weapon. Obviously crossbows wouldn't be affected by strength.

        In our 2nd ed campaign we've recently implemented a new tactic underground.
        We call it "Wall of Fireball". This is where the Druid casts Stone Shape in a corridor creating a wall approx. 6" thick with a hole just large enough to cast Fireball through. Yes, there were a few miscalculations the first few times we tried this, and characters paid the price(Blowback through the casting hole, Oxygen consumed in smaller areas, etc). The DM didn't like it at first, but after significant research into what both spells can do, he allowed it.

        Does it "break the games balance". Not really, and players will always look for ways to use spells, items, skills, etc; to master a situation. Several times during the casting of the Stone Shape our adversaries would hear the spell being cast and attack. Sometimes we're able to Silence the area in front of where the Stone Shape will be cast to counter that, which doesn't always work, so this tactic isn't foolproof, just fun to use sometimes.
        • Obviously crossbows wouldn't be affected by strength.

          But they should be ranked by strength. If a bow gets damage bonuses for being made for a high strength user, but that same high strength user can't pull a crossbow without using a crank or lever, why does the crossbow only do 1d4 damage? Crossbows in AD&D should be considered strength 19 specialty bows. Keep the 1d4, but add the strength bonus. The rate of fire should compensate for everyone and his mother getting the damage bonus (and explain why such a weak weapon costs so much).

      • I had lots of fun playing 2nd edition, don't even want to think about the money I spent on it. but when i got older and started thinking about mechanics i realized the class system was totally broken. i think 3rd brought in the kind of power-gaming min/maxing that was the natural conclusion of a class based system, what little i heard about 4th sounded like "diablo the rpg" if the next one is class-less, i might check it out. let me clarify, classes as starting templates are great; but afterwards progres
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:44PM (#40687583)

      THAC0 was the pinnacle of table top RPG innovation. All other mechanics since were also rans.

  • Why was this even posted? Amateur Hour on Slashdot apparently.
    We can't even hear the damned questions - just extended silence while Mearls listens to a question (apparently on the phone) that we can't hear..
    It's not even a video, its an audio-cast with a static image embedded. And the whole damned thing cuts out mid-sentence at 10 mins.
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      Why was this even posted? Amateur Hour on Slashdot apparently

      Wait, what? There's an hour that's notAmateur Hour around here? What have I been missing?!?!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:11PM (#40687129)

    I playtested D&D Next this last weekend, and enjoyed it a lot. It's nothing like 4e, whatsoever. The mechanics go back to 3e, but are even simpler. Skills are simpler, there was no need for a battlemat, and we enjoyed 6 combat encounters in under 3 hours, and plenty of roleplaying. I encourage all D&D fans to check it out, if they ever played AD&D, 3e, or 4e. AD&D players will find it more balanced, and bereft of THAC0 insanity. 3e players will like the skill simplification, and overall feel of the mechanics. 4e players will... be glad to get rid of 4e's powers, forced movement, positioning, Opportunity Attacks, and all other combat clutter.

    • Something similar to attacks of opportunity will almost certainly be back ... attacks of opportunity were introduced in 3e because of the way turns were played got changed from AD&D, making disengaging too easy. Something which is as applicable to 5e as it was to 3e.

      • The OD&D rule of "if you retreat, the enemy gets to attack you", while not the full "attacks of opportunity", prevents the disengaging problem.
    • by CrashNBrn ( 1143981 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @12:40PM (#40687517)
      Why bother? They're just reacting to Paizo eating their lunch. And have finally figured out that what the fans wanted was 2nd-Edition/3rd-Edition, which has been available as Pathfinder for what 3 years now (Aug.2009). Pathfinder Core Rulebook, $31.49 [], #4 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Gaming.

      A few years back, WoTC pulled ALL of their PDFs of the books for sale. Compare that to Paizo, if you buy directly from them they give you the hardcover AND the PDF.
      Heck if we look a little closer at Amazon's top selling gaming books, many of the v3.5 books are still in the top 40 (#19. Players Handbook 3.5). It's also worth noting that most 3.5 D&D Books/Supplements/Modules can be used with Pathfinder with little (to no) modification at all. Thus all that money one might of spent on 3.0 and/or 3.5 wont be wasted.

      Further, with D&D 4+ WoTC changed the OGL to severely restrict any other company from publishing supplements for D&D, whereas (again) Pathfinder kept the original OGL from 3.0/3.5 which allows ANYONE to create content for Pathfinder.
      • Not to mention the other benefits of OGL. Not just for suppliments, but for the benefit's of web searchable rules. Software character generators etc... In 3.5 if a DM wanted to look something up, was awesome, as long as it was in one of the core rulebooks. If one of your players wants to use something from anything non-core if the DM doesn't own the book then the DM has to borrow the book to actually confirm the legitimacy and that the player is understanding it right etc... Pathfinder, well I ca
    • AD&D players will find it more balanced, and bereft of THAC0 insanity. 3e players will like the skill simplification, and overall feel of the mechanics. 4e players will... be glad to get rid of 4e's powers, forced movement, positioning, Opportunity Attacks, and all other combat clutter.

      How can you speak for all these classes of players?

      I, as (currently) a 4e player, really don't want to get rid of 4es powers (Yay! Less options! And a return to Vancian casting!), forced movement and positioning are crucial for a tactical game, and OAs are essential for making a defender actually defend. That said, my group plays D&D for tactical skirmish combat, because really, that's what it does. If we want a roleplay-heavy game, we use a different system. D&D has been a combat game with roleplay

  • Embeded video instead of transcript is fail. Using a flash player instead of HTML5, is even more fail. Seriously?

    Slashdot -- news for nerd wanna-bes from 2005.

  • D&D was better before WoTC fucked it up, so we're going to reprint 2nd Edition as D&D Next and make a boat-load of money, since most long-term D&D fans bailed and switched to Paizo's Pathfinder.
    • I tried 3.5 and was disappointed and have stayed with 1.5-2.5 variants since. WoTC really just want people to buy new products every development cycle... Not modules or things that would add to an existing rule set, but whole new libraries of books, etc;

      However, my read problem with the WoTC versions of the game are that they are too OTT and video-game-esque, with "be everything/do everything" characters, with more skills, powers and abilities than your typical Marvel Superhero. It ruined it. 1.5-2.5
      • I thought 3rd Edition was interesting; 3.5 not so much. Although if you looked at Feats in 3.5 (physical/combat ones) anyways -- many of the modifiers aren't much different than a 2nd-Edition Warrior with a weapon proficiency specialist (+2/+4). Where the system really loses it (completely) is all the compendium/sourcebooks that keep adding classes and additional feats. You wind up with every little insignificant thing becoming a "Feat" ... which leads players to only focus on playing with and using abiliti
  • I have to say, I don't care for the 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. My introduction to it included an iron-fisted GM who wanted people in each role and forced us to take on roles we didn't particularly care for. Being from the school where the GM works with what the players show up with, this just stuck in my craw.

    I am enjoying the heck out of Pathfinder, though. The game can be played with two books, which lowers the barrier to entry. It's compatible with a system I was already familiar with and gener

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      Don't confuse Crappy DM with the system.

      That DM is in it for the power play, not the story or fun. DnD can be played with one book.

      " Being from the school where the GM works with what the players show up with."
      Once Again, that's the GM and not the system.

      You clearly like Pathfinder. That's great I'm glad to see any gamer in any system having fun.
      Don't hate something because you were introduced to it by a douche bag.

      • It's not just the crappy GM - I did read up on the system ahead of time.

        My major issue is that, philosophically, the game pushes players into roles (tank, dps, healer) which is the same explicitly-stated breakdown as an MMO. The designers want to pigeonhole players into neat little boxes and the everything about 4th Ed follows from that standpoint. To me, it feels like an MMO on paper.

        I also have a huge problem with the moneygrabbing aspect of it. Yes, Paizo, to a certain extent is doing the same thing, but

  • the problem is not good imagination, the problem is to hold the universe consistent enough over time as you make your own details. I found it much easier to buy 1 or 2 additional campaign ruleset and let my imagination run rampant. The core stay then consistent.
  • License for 5e? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I liked the Open Game License [] of D&D 3.5e.

    I did not like the Game System License [] of D&D 4e.

    If D&D 5e goes back to the OGL, I'll check it out.
    If it does not, then I'll stick with my Pathfinder subscriptions.

  • If I wanted to watch a video, I'd go to yahoo. they are useless. Give me text anyday.
  • For those commenting that there is too much art and fluff, too many books to buy, etc. that's the whole point. Hasbro wants to design a game that will sell the maximum number of books. OD&D could be played with just a few dollars invested by one person, the DM. That's just the model that Hasbro does NOT want to emulate.

  • by twoallbeefpatties ( 615632 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2012 @02:19PM (#40688611)
    Ah, 4th edition. You tried so hard, and you largely succeeded. You gave healers something to do other than cast heal spells every turn, and a day of dungeoneering was able to continue past the first battle instead of everyone going, "The cleric's used up his spells - we're going back to base!"

    You gave defensive builds a place in the world without making them boring. You took away a wizard's level 1 crossbow and gave him all the fireballs he wanted. You gave every class something to do other than basic melee attacks. You made characters interesting right from level 1 instead of forcing people to pray for an interesting character 10 levels down the road.

    You took away multiclassing, and there was a gnashing of munchkin teeth, but you gave us arcane swordsmen and holy assassins and psychic healers. You broke up the age-old racial tradition of just elves, humans, and dwarves by sticking tieflings, dragonborn, goliaths, and devas into the main books. You got rid of prestige classes, those wonky things that forced people into specific build types, and instead gave us multiple builds for the base of a class and paragon paths for later on. Your flavor was more focused on the character than on the class min/maxing.

    But, in your certain rush to fix everything that was wrong with D&D, you forgot the feel. You felt that you could discard the very makeup of the game and craft something new from scratch. Despite the interesting things that happened to a new character, your demand for balance forced you to keep everyone the same beyond level 1. While many people rallied behind you, you split the community as the players who had been in the game for years threw up their hands in disgust and went to a fork of your previous system, preferring an imperfect system that felt more like something from their youth and less like those infernal MMORPGs.

    I've seen the playtest, and at first glance it looks like something that tries to bring the two groups together. But the PnP RPG faces a diminished audience from the outset, what with kids all distracted by their new-fangled machine, and the audience that you drove away has come to call you a heretic and isn't bound to return even if you pander to them again. Godspeed to you, Wizards, but I fear there's not much more you can do.
  • by Pop69 ( 700500 )
    It's not E Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson, so he's not really D&D designer is he ?

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